Hike a workout-worthy double loop on the Fiery Gizzard Trail, Dog Hole Trail, and Grundy Day Loop at South Cumberland State Park, exploring stunning waterfalls in a boulder-filled valley, and climb to impressive views at Raven Point.
LOCATION:near Chattanooga, TN
OFFICIAL MAP: South Cumberland State Park Trail Map
The Fiery Gizzard Trail is undoubtedly one of the most iconic trails in the Southeast. Spanning twelve miles, each way, the trail follows the meandering flow of a waterfall-filled creek before climbing to outstanding views at Raven Point and dropping to the beautiful, cascading falls at Foster Falls. With tumbling waterfalls, moss-covered forests, incredible long-range views, and towering old-growth hemlock trees, this trail offers a spectacular adventure.
This hike follows a ten-mile double loop, following the Grundy Day Loop, the Fiery Gizzard Trail, and the Dog Hole Trail on an ultra-scenic (but difficult) adventure to Raven Point and back. The trail passes through some incredibly scenic sections along its namesake creek before climbing up the steep walls of Savage Gulch to a fantastic panoramic vista. It’s a pretty perfect adventure for a full day hike, and it’s easily accessible from nearby Chattanooga.
Fiery Gizzard Trail and Dog Hole Trail to Raven Point: the hike
Starting at the northern trailhead on the FGT (view maps and driving directions), the initial section of this route follows the Grundy Day Loop westbound from the trailhead, offering a scenic start to the hike. This loop runs along Big Fiery Gizzard Creek on the western half of the loop, and along Little Fiery Gizzard Creek on the eastern half. It’s hard to find a stretch of this loop that is not impressively serene and peaceful. Small waterfalls such as Hanes Hole Falls (on the loop’s western half) and Blue Hole Falls (on the loop’s eastern half) dot the landscape, as the trail descends easily down into the gorge. The hike reaches the Fiery Gizzard Trail at 1.2 miles, crossing the creek on a wooden bridge and following the FGT to the southwest.
The hike continues southbound, winding along the scenic banks of the trail’s namesake creek. At just over 1.5 miles, the hike reaches a blue-blazed side trail that leads to the beautiful, 15-foot cascades at Sycamore Falls. Departing the waterfall, the trail rolls elevation, climbing and falling through several boulder fields that can be difficult to navigate. It seems like every boulder moves with every step, and the trail’s path is often obscured as it scrambles through the rocky forest. This part of the trail can seem endless and challenging, as it is difficult to move quickly through the fields of scattered boulders.
After rising above the creek for several miles, the trail makes a descent back down to banks of the creek, reaching the lowest elevations on this hike. At just under four miles, the trail veers away from the creek, arcing to the east and beginning a strenuous climb to the walls of the gorge. (If you find another 20-foot waterfall on the right-side of the creek, you’ve likely missed the turn, as the trail veers eastbound out of the valley about 100 yards upstream.)
The ascent up the valley walls is considered a rugged climb by most. The trail scales steep pitches in some sections and can be quite slippery. Switchbacks wind up the walls of Savage Gulch relentlessly for much of the nearly 500-foot climb. Reaching the gorge’s walls, the hike has finished its toughest sections, and the views from Raven Point serve as a fantastic reward.
The Raven Point Trail is a side spur trail that spans just under a half mile, each way. The route to the point is relatively straightforward, following the signed spur trail southbound. The route follows the nearly-level walls of Savage Gulch to a peninsular viewpoint, with 270-degree panoramic views down the two converging branches of the gorge. This viewpoint is perfect for spotting the typical rock formations of the Cumberland Plateau, which provide fantastic vistas. Raven Point makes for an excellent spot for a mid-hike break before making the return hike.
Departing the overlook, the hike backtracks along the spur and begins following the Dog Hole Trail northbound above the valley. This trail is much more forgiving than the outbound route on the FGT; the trail’s flat grade and even surface make the Dog Hole Trail’s three-mile return route a comparative breeze. A short side spur leads from the Dog Hole Trail westbound at 6.5 miles, traveling to the small cascades of Yellow Pine Falls.
At 8.5 miles, the Dog Hole Trail descends fairly steeply and then rejoins the FGT just downstream from Sycamore Falls. The hike turns northbound, retracing its outbound route to the bridge, and veering right at the bridge to hike the western half of the Grundy Day Loop. This shady and scenic stretch of trail visits Blue Hole Falls and makes a meandering journey eastbound to the trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead at just under ten miles, completing the adventure.
More hike-worthy waterfalls near Chattanooga
Eastern Tennessee is home to some of the most exceptional falls in the South. Follow a short trail to the incredible cascades of Foster Falls, located at the opposite end of the FGT; it’s easily one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the southern states. Hike a short adventure to the tumbling falls at Greeter Falls in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. Follow the Beech Bottom Trail to the enormous multi-tiered falls at Jacks River Falls, just across the Georgia border in the remote stretches of the Cohutta Wilderness. Or hike to two waterfalls and loads of scenic beauty at Lula Lake Land Trust. And check out the full list of our favorite hiking trails near Chattanooga for even more adventures near town.
Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.
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Free parking is available at the trailhead.
35.251617, -85.747850 // N35 15.097 W85 44.871